County Reiterates Proposal; Possible Bidder Wows Crowd

Dr. Prem Reddy knocked them dead. The possible savior-in-waiting for San Leandro Hospital whipped an overflow crowd into a frenzy of hooting and hollering before eliciting a standing ovation during Monday night’s hearing to discuss the future of the embattled facility.

The Eden Township health care directors held the meeting to reiterate the counties plan to convert San Leandro Hospital to a 50-bed acute care facility that would make up for the seismically deficient building at Fairmont. Although the Alameda County Medical Center has a detailed proposal, it is still only an “assumption” at this point the county will take over until Sutter Health Care makes an official decision on the hospital’s fate.

The addition of Prime Healthcare Services to the agenda by Eden Township Director Dr. Vin Sawnhey added a brief sense of hope to a throng downtrodden over the possible loss of their hospital. With Sutter officials, including Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney in attendance, Reddy, the self-described small town physician from Victorville, Calif. offered to keep the hospital’s emergency room open in addition to streamlining its service and offering longer hours.

Prime Healthcare owns 13 hospitals in the state, mostly centered in Southern California and earned $1.2 billion in revenues last year. According to Reddy, all of his acquisitions rehabilitated bankrupt or near bankrupt hospitals. “This is our philosophy,” Reddy said before adding, “I can turn a failed community hospital into a successful community resource.” His plan also offers to lease the property for 10 years with an option to buy along with an infusion of, at least, $20 million in working capital during the first year in operation.

Critics of Reddy’s previous business plans detail a drive to strip new acquisitions bare to their biggest money-making components while reducing the hospital’s workforce. Reddy announced that his proposal will honor the union’s current bargaining agreement, but did equivocate on both subjects during his 25-minute presentation. On services he said, “We will keep pretty much all services intact” in addition to offering to keep nearly full employment, “We will keep all of them or substantially all of them.” Many officials in attendance knew next to nothing about Reddy and Prime Health Care, but were willing to listen.

“I know their reputation is almost like Sutter’s” said Councilman Jim Prola who also gave an impassioned plea for rejecting the county’s proposal, “At this point, we should listen to all and any offers we might get.”

Until Sutter makes a decision, the hospital situation in San Leandro is at a standstill. In the meantime, the county’s plan is to fill a need in acute care by using San Leandro Hospital to fill that void. David Kears, the director of the Alameda County Health Care Agency, again noted “the greatest increase in demand is in acute care.” and believes the loss of the emergency room facility could be made up for within the system. Many opponents, though, point to already overflowing emergency rooms that cannot take such a hit. “We believe there is capacity. It’s going to be tight. I’m not going to lie to you,” Kears said especially after Eden is rebuilt and expansion of St. Rose Hospital in Hayward.

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